Anti-poaching app gathers rhino DNA through a tablet

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The more we know about rhino and their movements, the better we can help protect them from poaching. And if we know them at the level their DNA, we can prove that the exact provenance of goods made from their horn and thus help bring poachers to justice. That’s the thinking behind the Rhino DNA Index System (RhODIS) which has just added a new tool to its arsenal of data gathering equipment – the humble Android app.

Working with developers at Samsung, the RhODIS team have come up with an app called eRhODIS which is designed to help rangers and vets gather data about rhino without heading back to the office. The app can tap directly into the main RhODIS database and upload and download DNA information gathered in the field for analysis. Rangers and investigators equipped with an appropriate tablet and an evidence gathering kit can also use eRhODIS to append the DNA record with photos of rhino midden, spore and – depressingly – corpses along with GPS data.

If the rhino in question is already on the database, then they can access all previously gathered material about the beast and its movements.

According to the latest figures, more than 860 rhino have gone missing in South Africa this year, almost double the number from 2011. Unbelievably, despite all the efforts being made to combat poaching, the numbers are rising at an alarming rate.

RhODIS itself was founded three years ago, and has been building a database of rhino DNA which has been used to provide evidence in poaching cases. According to the firm’s latest press release, it has around 10 000 individual records of black and white rhino from all over the continent on file.

We’ll be catching up with the eRhODIS team and some of the Samsung devs who helped to create the app later this week.

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